Tel Aviv is Israel’s second largest city, after Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city. Tel Aviv presents itself to the world as a cosmopolitan city, perhaps Israel’s most ‘cosmopolitan’. Its web page showcases the face it wants the world to see: beaches, beautiful women, gay pride and restaurants.
According to some, it’s also Israel’s most Left-leaning city. According to this point of view, there’s probably more ‘two-state solution’ advocacy in Tel Aviv than anywhere else in Israel.
On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, Tel Aviv will host an Arab-Leftist gathering. This gathering will be a protest against an Israeli government policy to destroy illegal Arab construction in Israel (Gil Ronen, “PLO Flag to Fly High in Unprecedented Tel Aviv Demo Today”, Arutz Sheva, April 29, 2015).
The Israeli government bulldozes homes that have been illegally constructed. The government does this to Jews (mostly, in Judea-Samaria). It does it also to Arabs in Israel.
My understanding is that Arabs build in Israel far more illegal homes than Jews. I understand also that Arab advocates in Israel claim that the Israeli government destroys more Illegal Arab homes than illegal Jewish homes.
This protest is not, officially, about ‘Palestine’. But some in Tel Aviv seem to feel that the protest will turn in that direction. That’s partly why the news headline cited above refers to those PLO flags.
Those who connect such flags appearing at an Israeli-Arab ‘construction’ protest to a different kind of protest may have reason to be concerned. On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at suppertime, I received a phone call from a reader in Tel Aviv. He called to report that there was a crowd in the same spot (Rabin Square) the April 29th protest was scheduled to occur. He didn’t know about the ‘illegal construction’ protest scheduled for the next day. He called to tell me that there were protesters in Rabin Square carrying PLO flags, chanting. He didn’t hear the words of the chant, but he assumed that those carrying a PLO flag in Jewish Israel generally don’t chant, ‘Ahm Yisroel Chai’ (depending on translation, this means something like, ‘Long live Israel; or, ‘the nation of Israel Lives!’).
Since a protest about the right to build or preserve illegal buildings doesn’t—on the face of it—have anything to do with the question of ‘Palestine’, it’ll be interesting to see why anyone would think that PLO flags (i.e., flags of ‘Palestine’) would appear at such a protest. But their appearance the day before certainly suggests that the agenda of the protest might be different from what we have been led to believe.
This protest could be about a lot more than illegally built homes. It might be a protest to demand that Israel yield to a new ‘Palestine’. It might be a demonstration of the power or stubbornness of Israel’s Left. It might be a demonstration to show that the pro-‘Palestine’ movement will assert itself even in the middle of a large Jewish city. It might be to demonstrate all of the above.
Somehow, this protest feels different. Maybe it’s the advertised reason that’s so different—to protest against destroying illegal homes. Somehow, with PLO flags already showing up the day before, this protest feels like there’s more involved than homes.
We’ll find out soon enough. The protest is scheduled to start in just a couple of hours.
Tel Aviv: it’s Israel’s most European city. Will today’s event morph from a pro-Arab-Israeli to an anti-Israel protest? Will that change challenge Tel Aviv’s self-image of openness and tolerance? Will this protest be the moment Tel Avivians begin to reconsider how they think about the two-state solution? Will this protest change anything in Israel?
Probably not; but then, this is Israel: anything can happen.
Perhaps today Israel will learn something from Tel Aviv. Stay tuned.